Thursday, May 31, 2012

Reason #204: Race to the Finish

When I read this afternoon that a federal appeals court in Boston had ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, it required a little research. The ruling was being spoken of as the most prominent pro-gay decision in the nation thus far, but didn't federal appeals just rule Proposition 8 unconstitutional a few months ago?

Well, yeah, they did, but while both of these cases will probably end up in the Supreme Court, the Prop 8 ruling revolved around that piece of legislation specifically--meaning that it's much more likely that the Supremes upholding federal appeals' decision wouldn't have greater ramifications for the rest of the country.

DOMA, on the other hand, is basically the foundation of all federal anti-gay-marriage policy. The part that has now been deemed unconstitutional, its classification of marriage as involving one man and one woman (and therefore taking benefits away from gay couple even in states that recognize the marriage itself), applies to the whole country, so if that were upheld by the Supreme Court, that would seem to override any local laws specifically prohibiting gay marriage, like the new one in North Carolina.

In reality, though, the ruling is a double-edged sword, because the decision hinged not on the definition of marriage itself, but on the idea that defining marriage isn't the federal government's job. So while this is great as a sign of the overall mood the country is in on this matter, it's still hard to say exactly what effect this could have on gay couples in states like, oh, say, Alabama.

I, for one, am betting on a long slog still ahead.

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